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Pareto-Improving Optimal Capital and Labor Taxes

  • Katharina Greulich
  • Albert Marcet

We show a standard model where the optimal tax reform is to cut labor taxes and leave capital taxes very high in the short and medium run. Only in the very long run would capital taxes be zero. Our model is a version of Chamleys, with heterogeneous agents, without lump sum transfers, an upper bound on capital taxes, and a focus on Pareto improving plans. For our calibration labor taxes should be low for the first ten to twenty years, while capital taxes should be at their maximum. This policy ensures that all agents benefit from the tax reform and that capital grows quickly after when the reform begins. Therefore, the long run optimal tax mix is the opposite from the short and medium run tax mix. The initial labor tax cut is financed by deficits that lead to a positive long run level of government debt, reversing the standard prediction that government accumulates savings in models with optimal capital taxes. If labor supply is somewhat elastic benefits from tax reform are high and they can be shifted entirely to capitalists or workers by varying the length of the transition. With inelastic labor supply there is an increasing part of the equilibrium frontier, this means that the scope for benefitting the workers is limited and the total benefits from reforming taxes are much lower.

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Paper provided by Barcelona Graduate School of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 337.

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Date of creation: Feb 2008
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Handle: RePEc:bge:wpaper:337
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  4. Judd, Kenneth L., 1985. "Redistributive taxation in a simple perfect foresight model," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 59-83, October.
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  8. Conesa, Juan Carlos & Krueger, Dirk, 2006. "On the optimal progressivity of the income tax code," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(7), pages 1425-1450, October.
  9. Lucas, Robert E, Jr, 1990. "Supply-Side Economics: An Analytical Review," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 42(2), pages 293-316, April.
  10. Albert Marcet & Francesc Obiols-Homs & Philippe Weil, 2002. "Incomplete markets, labor supply and capital accumulation," Economics Working Papers 659, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Oct 2003.
  11. Chamley, Christophe, 1986. "Optimal Taxation of Capital Income in General Equilibrium with Infinite Lives," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(3), pages 607-22, May.
  12. Jones, Larry E & Manuelli, Rodolfo E & Rossi, Peter E, 1993. "Optimal Taxation in Models of Endogenous Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 485-517, June.
  13. Albert Marcet & Elisa Faraglia & Andrew Scott, 2008. "In Search of a Theory of Debt Management," UFAE and IAE Working Papers 743.08, Unitat de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi Econòmica (UAB) and Institut d'Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC).
  14. Chryssi Giannitsarou, 2004. "Supply-side reforms and learning dynamics," Money Macro and Finance (MMF) Research Group Conference 2003 36, Money Macro and Finance Research Group.
  15. McGrattan, Ellen R & Rogerson, Richard & Wright, Randall, 1997. "An Equilibrium Model of the Business Cycle with Household Production and Fiscal Policy," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 38(2), pages 267-90, May.
  16. Albert Marcet & Ramon Marimon, 2011. "Recursive Contracts," CEP Discussion Papers dp1055, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  17. Chamley, Christophe, 2001. "Capital income taxation, wealth distribution and borrowing constraints," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 79(1), pages 55-69, January.
  18. David Domeij & Jonathan Heathcote, 2004. "On The Distributional Effects Of Reducing Capital Taxes," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 45(2), pages 523-554, 05.
  19. Aiyagari, S Rao, 1995. "Optimal Capital Income Taxation with Incomplete Markets, Borrowing Constraints, and Constant Discounting," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(6), pages 1158-75, December.
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  21. Andrew Atkeson & V.V. Chari & Patrick J. Kehoe, 1999. "Taxing capital income: a bad idea," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Sum, pages 3-17.
  22. Correia, Isabel, 1995. "Efficiency and Equity: Is There a Trade-off?," CEPR Discussion Papers 1218, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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